Arming Without Aiming: India's Military Modernization


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Arming Without Aiming: India's Military Modernization

India's explosive economic growth and rising international influence have led many experts to predict a possible major rearmament effort by the Indian military, in the face of ongoing tensions with Pakistan and a subcontinent that remains vulnerable to religious extremism. What steps has India taken to expand its military? What actions might India take in the future and what are the implications for the region?

On September 7, the Brookings Institution hosted the launch of Arming Without Aiming: India's Military Modernization (Brookings Press, 2010), written by Senior Fellow Stephen Cohen, the author of numerous books on India and Pakistan, including The Idea of Pakistan (Brookings) and India: Emerging Power (Brookings), and Nonresident Fellow Sunil Dasgupta, director of Political Science at the University of Maryland's Universities at Shady Grove. Following the authors' presentation, Edward Luce of the Financial Times and Ashley Tellis with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace joined a panel discussion on the future of India's military.

Brookings President Strobe Talbott provided introductory remarks. After the program, panelists took audience questions.

STROBE TALBOTT: This book is in some ways a follow on to Steve's earlier book, India: Emerging Power, which was published back in 2001. In the intervening nine years, India, of course, has grown in prosperity, it's grown in its economic, and I would say, geopolitical clout, its role in an evolving international architecture of multilateral institutions. But of course, during that same period, since 2001, the neighborhood in which India plays such an important role, a neighborhood that is home to more than a third of humanity, has gotten, in some ways, even more complicated. That's in no small measure as a result of the 2008 Mumbai massacre and the ensuing tensions between India and Pakistan, and, of course, we've also had, during this period, rising concerns about the long-term stability of Pakistan given the encroachments of the Taliban and al Qaeda into that country.

Also, to complicate the matter further, there is what I would call ongoing uncertainty about the future dynamics of India-China relations. And I would, just speaking for myself, not necessarily for the authors who will in a moment speak for themselves, I would put the overall context as follows: One of the more interesting -- in the sense of the old Chinese curse -- relationships in the world is the triangular relationship among China, India, and Pakistan. One leg of that triangle, namely the relationship between Pakistan and China, is, both historically and prospectively, highly cooperative whereas two legs of the triangle, the one between India and Pakistan and the one between India and China, are fraught with some danger.

Now, there is an idea out there that I suspect will come up in the course of the conversation and I know comes up in the book, that that danger can be managed in a way that somehow replicates the way in which the United States and the Soviet Union were able to keep the Cold War cold, that is to make sure that it didn't turn hot in the form of a thermonuclear war. And, of course, the principle mechanism for that was mutual deterrence.

Ashley Tellis @ Page 17 :
Indian defense policy is in crisis. It's in crisis for at least two reasons. One, the external environment that India had planned its military forces for since independence is steadily changing before the eyes of Indian policymakers.

The kind of threats India is going to face from Pakistan, which are threats that emerge increasingly from weakness, are not the kind of threats that the Indian military is the best instrument to cope with. And the kinds of capabilities that India is going to face on the Chinese front, which traditionally were premised on the assumption of persistent Chinese weakness, are actually being transformed as we speak into fundamental Chinese strengths, emerging Chinese strengths. And it is still not clear at this point whether India's military capacities will enable it to hold its own vis-à-vis a modern Chinese military, particularly if China's political and strategic intentions towards India were to change.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
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Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
President, The Brookings Institution
Featured Speakers:
Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
Nonresident Fellow, The Brookings Institution
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Program
The Brookings Institution
Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace​


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Another theme, though, is this recurring suggestion that there are potential
disconnects between basic strategic principles and the sort of decisions or
non-decisions that occur vis-à-vis individual development programs. And
as new technological opportunities arise in this particular field, whether
cruise missiles, ballistic missile defense, MIRVing, some of these may
have stabilizing or destabilizing effects on this goal of deterrence. The
panel's thoughts?
MR. COHEN: I'll say a word or two, then Ashley might want
to follow up on this.

I think that the Indians -- for India to have a major nuclear
weapons program, MIRVs and, you know, sophisticated program, they're
going to have to do more testing. Laboratory work only gets you so far.
And if they do more testing, then I think the roof falls in in terms of the
relationship with the United States and other countries. So, I think the
challenge for India is to have -- grow their nuclear program, but without
The danger is, in fact, that the Pakistanis may -- are racing
them and the Chinese are, also. So India's faced with the de facto nuclear
arms race with both Pakistan and China, two countries with -- especially in
the case of the Chinese, have no problem testing. So, I think the testing is
a big barrier for the Indians.

Ashley, would you like to --

MR. TELLIS: Well, I would just say that if -- this is a very
peculiar race in South Asia because the evidence shows that the Indians
are not racing, which can mean one of two things: either they are, in fact,
racing and nobody else knows about it because they're doing it so
efficiently in terms of their ability to do denial and deception, or they
actually believe in a minimal deterrent even if others don't believe it.

And so if you look at some of the indicators, like, for
example, fissile material for military purposes, the ballistic missile
production, it's biased heavily towards the low end of the spectrum. And
there doesn't seem to be any discernable signs that they want more if they
can get away with less.

Now, how do you explain this? There are two explanations.
One is they are truly strategically messed up, that is they don't understand
the relationship between requirements and what they actually have to do.

The other is a bureaucratic explanation, that the drivers of
their program are essentially part of the civilian nuclear establishment who
consider nuclear weapons to be second rate things compared to other
civilian applications of nuclear energy and so, when faced with a tradeoff,
will continue to put most of their resources in civilian applications,
(inaudible) cycle, what have you, rather than go out and build bigger and
better bombs. There are more details to this story, but that's a second

And the third is simply that India's civilian leadership just
believes that nuclear weapons are such powerful deterrents that you really
don't need too many of them as long as you are convinced that your
adversaries don't know what you have and where you have them. The
assumption being that these devices are such nasty things that even
having a handful of them buys you all the deterrents you need in most of
the conceivable scenarios that Indian policymakers think is relevant.

Now, whether this changes in the out years will be
interesting to watch. But today what I find most surprising is the Indian's
reluctance to race, even though there is enough evidence in the West that,
as Steve points out, the Chinese and the Pakistanis are moving at a fairly
rapid clip.


Regular Member
Sep 6, 2010
The trouble with people like cohen is that they have a preconceive idea on what they want to write on india and then they just write to say that INS Arihant is just a tech demonstrator. If he has done basic reasearch, he would have found out that there are 2 other .SSBN in an advance state of construction. There is enough literatutre in the Internet, magazines, and books in India to clearly indicate that India 2nd strike nuclear force will be based on nuclear submarines. In "India today" dated 28th January 2008 stated " For a country like India with a no-first use policy, it is vital because it prevents a potential adversary from lanching a crippling first stricke that can knock out all nuclear weapons. It also allows India to inflict considerable damage to the aggressor. One submarines carries at least 12 missles with Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles, which could mean as many as 96 warheads.

By the way Stephen P. Cohen book on India Emerging Power and book on India army. I can say without prejuidice both the books are crap. This men has is own agenda for his country, USA. Good luck to him. India should careful with such people as they have the capacity to demoralize those who don't have the intellect to understand their real motives.

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